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My Book, But Their Back Pages March 15, 2012

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, That's Entertainment.
14 comments

I am obviously failing to post my scrawls more frequently than, well, erratically which makes me wonder how those who scribble ‘em weekly, never mind daily, manage it. Money is probably the motive, and if I could find a way to monetise my meanderings – and gawd knows I’ve tried – then I might do it oftener, too. Which of course prompts a return to a favourite hobby horse, namely that free, unregulated (and usually un-edited) digital discourse is what’s killing print media, a prompt I will however resist because you’re bored witless by such obvious statements.

However, Luddite that I am, my increasingly perverse attachment to print journalism found me updating my scrap-book this week and I wonder in this respect if I’m a dying breed? I maintain of course that my pile of bright red 9½ x 14½ inch ‘Silvine’ scrapbooks (a paltry £1.75 from most remaining newsagents) with their reassuringly furry pages are a source of information worth keeping which no website can match.

All Inhuamn Life Is Here

True, I could probably scan and store newspaper and magazine articles in some onscreen file, but that would only complicate the storage process, and with only an A4 scanner, it would make it more awkward than merely folding over a part of a broadsheet feature to fit into my physical book.

The personalised selection of material glued onto its pages obviously reflects my own narrow and arguably facile interests and certainly doesn’t constitute a ‘journal of record’, but it’s both interesting and sometimes useful to trawl backwards through these tomes and read, say, Ed Miliband as Labour’s last Climate Change Secretary telling us that “Opposing windfarms should be socially taboo” (Guardian of March 9th 2009), or about the Telford schoolboys who “almost won” an international competition with a car built from hardboard and scrap metal (Shropshire Star, Oct 9th 1992), or learn in the Telegraph of April 30th 2009 that “The average Briton has only three true friends”  – my response to which was, ‘Wow, that many?’

And so unlike my friend Dick Pountain who posts less frequently but with far greater gravitas and perspicacity (www.dickpountain.co.uk),  in a desperate effort to maintain a blogging presence I shall tell you what I glued into my book this week. After The Times’ wistful piece on the demise of cinema projectionists in the digital age (March 12th), and since I was just moaning about lack of income, a piece in the E. Standard’s Londoner’s Diary (also March 12th) caught my eye. It noted that under the Freedom of Info. Act a Mr Asif Khan had asked BBC1tv why they’d hired Claudia Winkleman, who in his opinion had no “particular qualifications, knowledge or love of cinema”, to present Film 2012. Was there, he asked, any specific quality she possesses over and above an experienced film critic? The Beeb’s clearly rattled response was that by law they weren’t obliged to answer Mr Khan, but Londoner’s Diary waspishly noted that La Winkleperson is married to sometime film producer, Kris Thykier.

Now Asif Khan isn’t the only one exasperated by La Winkleperson’s performance on Film 2012. She tries to mask her filmic ignorance with an abundance of gush and a rotating coterie of movie buffs who she obsessively turns to for opinions and factoids that she can’t muster. At least her immediate predecessor, Jonathon Ross’s carefully scripted presentation was clearly underpinned by a lifetime of celluloid worship, and of course before him we had the greatest living hairpiece that is encyclopedic movie punmeister, Barry Norman. However if Winkleperson was hired because she’s wedded to a producer of just three rather bad films, I think they should replace her with Yrs. Trly., if only because her husband didn’t even make it into the Top 100 of World Cinema’s Power 100 (Guardian, Sept 24th 2010) whereas my sister, Clare Binns, was number 70, quickly elevated to #30 in The Times’ list of movie biz luminaries (February 11th 2012).

Sister Clare, who programmes the films shown in her 18-string Picturehouse chain as well as most other British indie cinemas, of course relies heavily on my advice and recommendations (as film critic for the hugely prestigious Welsh listings rag, Broad Sheep… talking of poor puns). But although Claudia may look nice, have very shiny hair and a husband who bankrolls crap films, I have the advantage of being willing to sleep with any influential BBC executive who might hire me, and without incurring spousal wrath.

Talking of nepotism, which obviously I fully embrace, when recently trawling for scrapbook fodder through a so-called ‘quality press’ increasingly reliant on vacuous opinion and celebrity pap masquerading as feature material (because they don’t have the budgets for newsgathering anymore and it’s all online anyway), I suddenly realised why I’ve never been welcomed aboard the national newspaper gravy train: I’m just not related to the right people. There’s Andrei Harmsworth, Metro’s gossip shill and a scion of the Northcliffe publishing dynasty, the S. Times’ Daisy Waugh, daughter of the late contrarian columnist, Auberon – to name but two – who got hired because of their ancestry, not their merit. And even in my own wee world of automotive hackery, Richard Heseltine has a lovely gig on Classic & Sportscar: surely not unconnected with his father Tarzan’s ownership of its publishers, Haymarket?

So given their current parlous circumstances and my total lack of moral fibre, I am thinking of applying for a top job at News International, on the basis that I am actually just about young enough to be the hitherto secret bastard son of Ripper Murdoch. After all, somewhere in my scrapbook I’m sure I have a clipping from The Sydney Morning Herald concerning young Rupe’s fixation with a flame-haired temptress of ill-repute circa 1950…

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